Business & Finance

A new rule that would compel executives to certify the adequacy of their public companies' antifraud policies was expected to win approval Tuesday from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Washington Post reported. Lax internal controls were cited in accounting scandals at WorldCom and some other large companies. Industry experts consider the new rule a positive step, while stressing the importance of SEC oversight and public disclosure, the Post said.

Vodafone Group, the world's largest cellphone-services company, posted its second straight heavy net loss in the 2002 business year - $14.7 billion - but still beat analysts' expectations on pretax earnings and upped its dividend to stockholders by 36 cents a share. The deficit was due to a write-down of acquisitions during an expansion spree dating back to the late 1990s. But retiring chief executive Christopher Gent resisted pressure to write down the cost of its third-generation cellphone licenses and also said he will neither sell the company's 44 percent stake in US cellular giant Verizon Wireless Inc. nor exercise the right to compel Verizon to buy back $10 billion worth of that stake. Vodafone is, however, within six weeks of completing a deal to sell its $3 billion-a-year land-line business in Japan, Gent said. Last May, Vodafone reported a $19.7 billion loss for its 2001 fiscal year, one of the largest in corporate history. Vodafone is based in Newbury, England.

The automaker Mazda was refusing to comment on a published report that it will cease production of its luxury Millennia model. Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Japan's leading business journal, said the decision will free the company to concentrate on building small and mid-size cars and minivans. Millennia sales in the US totaled 18,000 units last year, but only 1,300 in Japan, according to the report.

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